GIVEN the challenges this country faces, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that cultural activity is at a low ebb. That, however, is not the case. From Karachi to Peshawar to Swat, cultural activities are drawing audiences. From time to time, these are of a nature that cause haunting nostalgia, a tangible desire to return to the gentler Pakistan where music, art and culture were amongst the state’s priorities. Into this category must fall the exhibition at the Karachi Arts Council to celebrate 100 years of cinema. Arranged by the group Amateur Melodies in collaboration with the Progressive Writers’ Association (Sindh) and the Arts Council, the exhibition features posters related to various aspects of film in the subcontinent. From the elegant to the kitsch, from Nargis in Mother India to Sultan Rahi as Maula Jutt, these images communicate what we, as a region, have contributed. And not just posters: also on display are memorabilia such as gramophone records, film booklets and photographs that remind of a field that was once an industry but which now stands decimated.
Beyond the nostalgia, therefore, this exhibition should serve as a reminder that much needs to be done in terms of reviving Pakistan’s film industry. While certain Pakistani films have seen domestic and international success over recent years, we have not seen the sort of state-sponsored push and investment that is required to pull an industry out of the doldrums. With cinemas doing good business around the country, it is time to stop arguing over whether or not to allow films to be imported and turn, instead, to bringing the domestic film industry up to competitive standards. With digital technology, the costs of film production have become a little more manageable. This needs to be capitalised upon.